Number One Contender: Vitor Belfort. Many argue that Belfort has not earned the number one contender spot and they may be correct, but the fact is that Belfort poses a big threat to Silva. Belfort’s hand speed and power make him a tough test for Silva. In other words Anderson probably will not be able to dance around with his hands down ducking punches like he did against Forrest Griffin.
Other Contenders: Unlike the other divisions, the list of real contenders is small. If you look at the UFC roster you do not see many threats to Silva. In fact, what you see if a division full of above average guys who put on exciting fights and could be a serious challenger in any other promotion. After Belfort, the next contender is already set…Chael Sonnen. Sonnen earned a title shot with his win over Marquardt. After that there are only a few guys. I think the elite guys that could make a title run are: Nate Marquardt, Demian Maia, Wanderlei Silva, Michael Bisping, Yushin Okami, and Yoshihiro Akiyama. The next level of guys are solid, but I am not sure that they can win a title. Guys like Alan Belcher, Patrick Cote, Dan Miller, and Nate Quarry are well above average, but not likely to contend. Losing Dan Henderson weakened the division significantly. However, there are still several exciting fights. This division has such a dominant champion that it is hard to picture any of these guys beating him, but they all offer style match-ups. Sonnen’s wrestling, Maia’s submission skills, and Wanderlei’s dangerous striking. A few more wins could push some of the guys up a level.
Guys to Watch: Goran Reljic. He is coming off a serious back injury and making his middleweight debut agaisnt C.B. Dolloway. Many think he is a real threat if healthy. He will have his hands full at UFC 110 though. Also, keep your eyes on Arizona Combat Sports’ Aaron Simpson. Though he barely beat Tom Lawlor he has been impressive. The UFC has targeted this division with the Ultimate Fighter 11 and their hopes are to develop challengers to the title, but that wouldn’t be immediate, it would take some time to develop the best of the cast. Perhaps a new signing or addition to the UFC roster would bolster the contender list, but I do not know of any contenders on the UFC radar.